Here’s an East End secret: One of the best breakfasts — served every day from April to early November — requires a short drive over the Canal. There, you’ll encounter the Hampton Maid, which has been running a quiet, dedicated operation since 1959.
Nearly 60 years ago, John and Marion Poulakis headed to Eastern Long Island, in search of a new home. A small hilltop motel, with sweeping views of the Shinnecock Bay, caught their attention. Shortly thereafter, a star — the Hampton Maid — was born. The original restaurant was the Sail Inn, a dilapidated motel in need of some TLC. Marion Poulakis, a graphic designer, drew a picture of the now famous maid on a cocktail napkin, her vision for the space developing. The pair moved their family to the property, where they lived in hotel rooms during the Maid’s early years. Eventually, the family built their own home on the property, and, slowly, the concept of a restaurant (billed first as a mere coffee shop) began to evolve.
Marion Poulakis died in 2004, and the operation has since expanded to include various members of the Poulakis family. The restaurant is now run, largely, by second-generation family member Steve Poulakis, who touts the importance of fresh, seasonal ingredients and cooking to-order meals for his guests. Steve Poulakis’s wife runs operations for the 29 guest rooms, while John and Marion’s daughter, Leslie Bellows, shares a partnership in the Maid. So, too, does nearly family member Albert Bellows, the line cook who began his relationship with the Maid while working as a milk delivery man for Sherry’s Dairy, his family’s now-defunct Southampton-based creamery.
Three generations have since contributed to the Maid’s success, and the restaurant continues to be family-run and operated, an impressive feat in today’s world of eat-or-be-eaten corporate conglomerates. Twelve water-adjacent acres include flowering gardens and the cool respite of a seasonal swimming pool.
When it comes to room rates, a plethora of options are available, including single and double standards and junior and senior suites which tread the line between Hamptons and non-Hamptons prices. In season, during a holiday, one can expect to pay upwards of $400 for a room, though less in-demand weekends are appreciably less (the going rate hovers around $200). In the off-season, when the motel and restaurant close, the property undergoes updates and maintenance, in preparation for the next year’s hustle.
The rooms are nice, of course, but what you’re really coming for is breakfast, one of the finest available on the East End. It’s elevated diner fare: fresh juices, seasonal fruits, plate-sized pancakes, omelets, French toast, and more. On Sundays and holidays, the restaurant offers a prix fixe menu for $24.50 per person, one of the better deals on the East End (if there is such a thing as a “deal” out East). Food is served on a covered porch that is sunny and pleasant in summer and cozy and inviting in the cooler months. In addition to the typical breakfast go-tos, Josh Poulakis, the founders’ grandson, expanded the rotation with evolving specials, which feature local produce and inventive takes on classic preparations. Part of this evolution has to do with the changing needs of the Maid’s guests, who, in 2018, now desire a fresher, cleaner approach to breakfast.
The restaurant does not accept reservations, meaning that there is almost always a wait, especially in summer. Buzzers alert eager diners that their time in queue has finally expired. A gift shop located near the reservation desk provides just enough distraction for those with small children (though it can be a dangerous, wallet-emptying pursuit).
Here’s what’s not dangerous, though: tossing your hat in the ring for breakfast at the Hampton Maid, a pursuit you’re guaranteed not to regret.